The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Council postpones tariffs, schedules appointment


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

John French and Carol Griswold react to the commendation bestowed upon them by outgoing Seward Mayor David Seaward at Monday's city council meeting.

Several substantial agenda items occupied the final meeting of the current lineup of Seward City Council members. One was the amendment of port and harbor tariff regulations, and associated rate increases and weekend closures at the Harbormaster’s office. The rate changes were not a central concern, although at least one council member wanted additional time to review them.

Councilor Marianna Keil objected to the winter weekend closing of the Harbormaster’s offices without proper notice. Keil said that she had received one call from an aggrieved small boat harbor client who threatened legal action. Councilor Bob Valdatta questioned raising rates while reducing service such as weekend access to harbor personnel.

Assistant City Manager Ron Long and Harbormaster Mack Funk stepped forward with some statistics and observations, noting that weekend traffic in the winter is typically at a near standstill and that exceptions can be dealt with by the Harbormaster on a case-by-case basis. Valdatta noted that, with modern communications, closing offices isn’t that great a deprivation as many transactions can be handled by e-mail or text messaging.

However, Councilor Keil was insistent on reviewing the changes, saying council wasn’t informed and customers should be given notice. Councilor Christy Terry suggested that further winter cuts to weekday office staff may compensate personnel needs elsewhere in harbor. Harbormaster Funk noted that the preference was that harbor employees take their vacations in the winter and this would be facilitated by flexibility gained by weekend closures.

Harbor staff responded to a report of an oil spill by Alaska SeaLife Center staff on Oct. 11. Vice Mayor Jean Bardarson, questioned the absence of an agreement between the city and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regarding spill response. Councilor Terry noted that 57 communities have reciprocal agreements with DEC. She said that, in view of the reported oil spill over the weekend it would be reassuring to know that there are additional resources lined up for future incidents.

The council was also tagged teamed by Lowell Point residents Linda Paquette and Teri Arnold over the Lowell Point sewage lagoon and treatment plant issue. They suggested looking to alternative technologies for managing the city’s waste including more efficient aeration. They also suggested that the city consider hiring an additional consultant who specializes in progressive designs for community wastewaster treatment.

Administration noted that the state funding of $490,000 had been returned as insufficient for its stated purpose of financing the dredging and disposal of lagoon deposits from both the Seward Marine Industrial Center facility and the Lowell Point facility. Seward City Manager Jim Hunt stated that current estimates exceeded $1 million for dealing with the Lowell Point lagoon alone.

Mayor Seaward undertook to abstain from votes concerning council decisions having long term effects on the city, as he reasoned that a new council had been elected and would be seated at the next council meeting. However, his intentions were subverted by city code regarding council voting and his vote was converted into yes votes on the actions regardless.

One such vote approved the lease of property used by GCI for a telecommunications tower at the SMIC. The lease, for about $800 a year, came up for criticism by citizen Tim McDonald, who said the city was coming in too low on its rate. The LOG, when commenting on the fact that private ground leases to GCI in the area are typically in excess of $800 a month, was advised by administration that the council’s policy was dictated by city code establishing fair market value as an aspect of the land value, not the going rate for comparable properties.

The city clerk was advised to advertise for applicants to be considered for the council seat to be vacated by Bardarson when she is sworn in as mayor at the Oct. 28 city council meeting. The public notice has been issued by the city clerk’s office and all interested and qualified Seward residents are encouraged to apply at the clerk’s City Hall office.


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